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New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Manawatu Rugby are delighted to announce that halfback Aaron Smith has recommitted to New Zealand Rugby through until the end of the 2019 season.
26-year-old Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including an amazing 60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders success over the last few years. He was a standout player for the Highlanders this season helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried his outstanding form into the All Blacks season.
Smith said: “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos. Knowing I’m contracted for the next four years allows me to focus on my rugby and there are some exciting challenges ahead for the All Blacks which I hope to be part of. Dunedin is my home and I wouldn’t want to play my Super Rugby anywhere else; the Highlanders brotherhood is something pretty special and I can’t wait for next season.”
Smith joins All Blacks teammates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles who announced four-year deals earlier this year, while Jerome Kaino and Wyatt Crockett are contracted through until 2018. Players locked in to 2017 include Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Malakai Fekitoa, Hikawera Elliot, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, James Broadhurst, Tawera Kerr Barlow, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Brad Weber, Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty; with Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Beauden Barrett, Joe Moody, Lima Sopoaga, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Victor Vito, George Moala, TJ Perenara, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu and Andy Ellis contracted through to the end of next year.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: “I want to congratulate Aaron on his recommitment to New Zealand Rugby. In the last few seasons he has developed into a key player for both the Highlanders and the All Blacks and is a world-class player on top of his game. With the signing of Aaron, together with Brodie, Julian and Dane, we now have a core group of key players committed long-term to the All Blacks and their Super teams, which is fantastic.”
All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen added: “It’s outstanding news for Aaron and for the All Blacks. With a number of senior players leaving at the end of this year, Aaron and other players will play a key role in the team as we face the exciting challenges coming up over that period, including the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017. We look forward to working with him.”
Highlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph commented: “Since I have known Aaron, he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen. In a sense he is redefining the halfback role by the way he plays, and you know players like that don’t come along that often.”
Highlanders’ General Manager Roger Clark added; “Aaron’s commitment to the Highlanders until 2019 is fantastic news. He is such an important member of the team and leadership group, and it’s great to have that commitment from him to the team and the organisation.”
Manawatu Rugby CEO John Knowles said: “Aaron remains a very important part of our community and we are delighted that he has recommitted to Manawatu. Every time he comes home he is out and about visiting schools and rugby clubs and inspiring the next generation of rugby players and we certainly appreciate his support.”
Aaron Smith – mini biography
Aaron Smith, or “Nugget” as he is affectionately known by his team mates, started his professional career in 2008 at the age 19 for the Manawatu Turbos. In 2011 after consistently strong performances in the ITM Cup Smith earned a position in the highly successful Maori All Blacks, coached by Jamie Joseph. Subsequently offered a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders, Smith made his debut in 2011. Smith has been the Highlanders first-choice halfback for the last four seasons. In 2012, after an outstanding Super Rugby season, Smith was selected for the All Blacks and made his first appearance in the iconic black jersey against Ireland on 9 June 2012. Smith’s trademark bullet pass and fast-paced style suited the All Blacks’ expansive game and he cemented himself in the starting team in 2013. He was awarded the Tom French Memorial Trophy for the Maori Rugby Player of the Year in 2014 - and with 41 All Blacks Tests to date - Smith is generally regarded as one of the best halfbacks in the world.
Media note: Smith will be available for comment together with Roger Clark at a media stand up at Highlanders HQ in Dunedin at 1.00PM today. For further information please contact Amanda Gould on 021 223 8840.